A new global effort to address hate and extremism both on and offline will be centered in Pittsburgh.
The idea for the inaugural Eradicate Hate Global Summit held Tuesday — and the ensuing solutions-focused research project to follow — came out of the massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue in October 2018. Local organizers University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and 412 Venture Fund, alongside Facebook, the Peace Initiative and the Segal Family Foundation, saw the role that hate speech and violent extremism online played in that tragedy and many others, and wanted to bring people together to form new ideas to address the root causes across policy, technology and more. The new, ongoing project, backed by Pitt and CMU, will be called the Collaboratory Against Hate Research and Policy Center.
Some of those discussions centered on the solutions tech can offer (or perhaps merely adjust for, in the case of social media companies that can act as platforms for harmful extremism). But other events at the hybrid in-person and online summit featured glimpses at what anti-hate startups are already doing.
Some fantastic points from @courtneyr on the Civil Society and Tech panel at @EradicateHate_ particularly on the need for far more transparency on tech company policies relating to takedowns, protections for civil society, etc. #EradicateHate
— Jacqueline Lacroix (@jacq_lacroix) October 19, 2021
At the Anti-Hate Technology Venture Fair portion of the summit, six companies participated in a pitch competition with a first place prize of $50,000. Here’s a look at the technology behind each startup, and the final awards:
Viral Moment, First Place, $50,000
Using natural language processing for picture and video-based social media platforms, Menlo Park, California-headquartered Viral Moment identifies harmful trends that might go viral and encourage people to act with hate or violence. One example the company gave of this is the Diabolical Lick trend on TikTok, which emboldens users to post videos of themselves stealing or vandalizing. In the future, Viral Moment would be able to predict the onset of this viral trend, and make sure businesses, school and other institutions are aware of the harmful risks it might pose.
Page Vault, Second Place, $10,000
Based in Chicago, Page Vault uses its patented software to capture information from the internet and screenshots of webpages for legal purposes. In doing this, Page Vault helps its clients build evidence of online activity that could potentially include hate speech or extremism. The software archives the needed webpages so that they are unchanged from when they were used, and provides them with timestamps and other detailed outputs needed in a court of law.
Activism Always, Third Place, $2,500
Similar to Viral Moment, Activism Always has a product centered in social media listening technology. But its web application is easy to use, and meant for social impact leaders and nonprofits who have little to no technical experience and have struggled with social data management in the past. For those clients, Bay Area-based Activism Always is able to find trending hashtags and keywords to help social impact groups better engage with their communities.
The technology behind Kent, Ohio-based Immobileyes addresses active shooter situations with the use of a vision-blocking laser system. The lights, which are safe to the eyes and non-lethal, turn on when a shooter or other violent actor is detected by the security system, making the room seem darker and rendering the shooter’s targeting capabilities ineffective. Immobileyes is partnering with the U.S. Air Force as well as local and state law enforcement in the development of its product.
SafePro Technologies also deals with the urgent concerns of an active shooter situation. Using sensors to identify the location of a shooter in a building, SafePro’s product is able to shine red Xs or green arrows to direct potential victims away from harm until first responders are able to mitigate the threat. Once first responders are on the scene, Whitewater, Wisconsin-based SafePro also makes it easy for them to determine where the violent actor is in a safe and timely manner.
Using a combination of LiDAR and camera sensors, San Carlos, California-based Oyla.ai can detect threats to an area perimeter and automate follow-up security steps. The 3D detection technology is also able to identify false alarm cases that can reduce time and money needed for security.
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments. -30-